APA @ 50
APA, which began life 50 years ago as the Agency for the Performing Arts, has made a stunning transition from the old to the new. Founded in New York by a group of former MCA agents, the tenpercentery entered a period of significant growth a few years ago. “We’ve been able to triple the business,” says APA prexy and CEO Jim Gosnell.
Key to APA’s expansion: a focus on emerging digital platforms. Today, APA’s agents blanket that world as thoroughly as their predecessors covered the nightclub and theater scenes in their search for emerging stars.
“We actually have a full-time agent in our department who does nothing but focus on the talents behind those platforms,” says APA partner and executive VP Lee Dinstman, who heads the Television Literary Dept.
The agency’s digital breakouts include Blair and Elle Fowler, sisters who’ve parlayed YouTube beauty tutorials into a book deal and their own cosmetics line. It has also enjoyed multiplatform success with reality stars Kendra Wilkinson (“The Girls Next Door”), who’s acted in films and marketed her own Love Candy Kit, and sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner of Kardashians’ fame who’ve launched nail polish and clothing lines.
These days, everyone likes to boast that their agents work together to monetize clients’ talents and IP across a variety of media, “but the difference is, it’s actually true here” says APA board member and partner Brian Dow, who joined APA from UTA 4 1/2 years ago to head its Branded Lifestyle unit. “At a lot of (other) agencies, there’s so much infighting and so many fiefdoms battling each other that half your time is spent dealing with internal politics.”
Agents in APA’s Alternative & International Television division have an added incentive play nice with each other. “It doesn’t matter who signed the client or closed the deal, because all the money goes into a pot and it’s shared among all the agents,” explains APA partner and senior veep Hayden Meyer, who runs the unit, which he founded after coming over from UTA in 2006. The policy is “unique among agencies and unique within this agency.”
Synergy is also vital to APA’s Entertainment Marketing & Brand Integration unit, headed by Thomas Fry, which reps such clients as Bombardier, Lamborghini and Food & Wine Magazine.
When Fry got an early look at the script for the film “Think Like a Man,” whose writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman are repped by APA’s Debbie Deuble Hill, he saw an opportunity for his client Marriott Intl., which was looking to attract upscale urban demographic to its L.A. Live properties in downtown Los Angeles. Fry cut a deal with the producers to have the lead character live at Marriott’s downtown Ritz-Carlton property.
In some cases, growing APA’s business has just been a matter of exploiting an emerging genre. Long a force in the concert-booking arena with clients that have ranged from Liberace to the Doors, APA has recently been targeting techno with its Electronic Music division, founded 18 months ago, which has a roster of deejays, producers and singers that includes Paul Oakenfold and Nadia Ali.
“Twenty years ago, electronic music had to be booked into underground raves and warehouses that got shut down by police,” says APA partner and senior VP of concerts Josh Humiston, who heads the division. “Now, it’s crossed over to play the same venues that rock bands are playing.”
One thing hasn’t changed for APA.
“It’s still dialing for dollars,” says Dinstman. “At the end of the day, our first goal is to find employment for our clients and develop, package and sell their original ideas.”
CONCERTS — ELECTRONIC & PERFORMING ARTS
VP, Agent/Concerts Dept., Electronic Division, New York
Agent/Concerts Dept., Electronic Division, L.A.
VP, Agent/Concerts Dept., head of Performing Arts Division.
Agent/Concerts Dept., Performing Arts Division.
Agent/TV Literary Dept.
ENT. MARKETING & BRAND INTEGRATION
Agent/Entertainment Marketing and Brand Integration Dept.
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